Blue Bully Breaker: Autism Awareness and Compassion

Our daughters (and many of my students) inspire my husband and I every day.  As we’ve survived to adulthood, you realize growing up is a challenge for everyone. It’s hard when you fall in that average range of kiddo and even more difficult if you are an outlier. Add in a culture dominated by instant gratification, instant notification, and a lack of face to face connection, growing up can downright suck, because “normal” seems to change more frequently. When you had the swirling cultural changes and having a diagnosis of something (like Autism, ADHD, or a medical condition), growing up almost seems deadly. April is Autism Awareness Month which touches our family through our beautiful daughters, but also through my work as a special education teacher.

What does it mean to figure out the world when you’ve also got some diagnosis of being different hanging over you like a bloated cloud?

This is how it feels to be our 11-year-old daughter many days. 20180326_185258_HDRShe holds it all together to fit her puzzle piece into the public-school institution puzzle, then the community puzzle, the friendship puzzle, the family puzzle, etc. The list goes on. But these are the ones she has to consciously flip rotate and push her puzzle piece into daily.

But you know what’s cool? She’s broken down some of these institutions into manageable pieces that work with her personality and gifts. She’s created a community for herself at her elementary school. She’s got a BFF.

Zoey before Court WarmingWhat inspires me about our other daughter, Zoey, is her ability to stand up for her convictions and stay true to herself. She fights for her friends, she’s loyal, and fun. Because of her beautiful personality, inner convictions and faith, she exudes a classic beauty. Check her out before homecoming this year.

Now it’s your turn to be inspired by the many with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) in our communities who carve out a life in this cult-of-personality ridden culture. Check out how my local middle school is spreading compassion:

This month our school community has embraced not only educating our immediate school community about autism, but also how being a culture of compassion, kindness and courtesy is a game changer for the success of anyone (students and staff and parents) in middle school. Knowledge can lead to power to break the cycle of bullying.

During spring break a small group of students and staff placed kindness inspired post-it notes on lockers, bathroom mirrors and walls in the halls of MRMS. Check it out on the MRMSHuskies twitter feed.

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And as a staff, we support and remind with solidarity in #LightItUpBlue. It opens the lines of communication for real sharing and listening with a result of understanding and accepting each other.

Staff Light It up Blue

Here’s the wonderful staff I get to call my work family supporting #AutismAwareness at #MRMSHuskies #WeAreBSSD

Yesterday, Monday, April 2, 2018, started off Autism Awareness month with World Autism Awareness Day. These examples are the ways the #LightItUpBlue campaign can break the cycle of bullying. Let your Blue Light shine and overcome the social narrative of isolation, bullying and hatred that dominates opinions of tweens, teens and their use of social media. #UseItForGood

I want to challenge you to really follow through celebrating compassion through the month of April. Don’t let your enthusiasm dwindle by the middle of the month and sizzle out by April 30th. By focusing on compassion, you make it about Autism Awareness and more. Learn about autism. Share about autism. Open up the conversation. Make the connections.

Just remember Autism is not who that person is. It’s a way to describe some of the attributes of a person. Just like I have Cushing’s Disease. My characteristics of having a round face, brittle bones, among others do not make me Crystal. They are just characteristics that can accompany this diagnosis. They add color to my life’s story I’m writing. My daughters are not autism. They are human beings with keen senses. Visual gifts to be artists. Allyson has above average reflexes and vision that allow her to catch the tiniest of frogs out of the miry mud surrounding my parents’ pond. Zoey has a love for and deep understanding of pets.

What are you doing to further compassion and awareness? How have you been touched by autism? Leave comments below. Let’s start a conversation and connection. Let’s spread compassion.

Thanks for reading and replying! Happy Spring

-Crystal

P.S. If you want to do some reading, these are some works of fiction I recommend (These are some books I’ve highlighted before. I feel it doesn’t hurt to remind and reread them.)

Books to read (all of these are fairly family-friendly, if read together.)

For the younger crowd:

A Friend Like Simon by Kate Gaynot

Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko

Counting by 7s (Kindle Version) by Holly Goldberg Sloan

My Friend with Autism: A Coloring Book for Peers and SiblingsMy Friend with Autism by Beverly Bishop

Rules Rules by Cynthia Lord

For the older crowd:

House Rules: A Novel House Rules by Jodi Picoult

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

 

Author Review-Laura McHugh

If you know anything about me, I’m passionate about writing and literature. It’s my main creative outlet and love (although creating and appreciating art is so awesome in any form!). I “discovered” a new favorite author and the best part is she’s a Missouri girl and lives in Tiger country! Meet Laura McHugh.

First I want to tell you about The Weigh of Blood. If you’re a Missouri girl, you grew up going to the Ozarks for anything–summer camp, Branson Christmases, 4th of July at the lake, Silver Dollar City, visiting the various state parks and historical and geological attractions, etc. Laura encapsulates all of these things into her prose and setting she creates for her protagonists, Lucy and Lila. You will immediately get a nostalgic, homey feeling. This made it easy for me to relate to the characters even though they have substantially different upbringings and lifestyles than my own.

While the story offers excitement, a mystery to solve, and complex characters to discover, Laura also pulled in the theme of how we define family. She uses many of the urgent political and or societal issues of our culture and time to speak to our emotions. She uses the characters and plot to highlight the issues of human trafficking, education, and caring for the orphans and widows.

If you love thrillers, this book thrilling. There is some more graphic language used to create the scenes for her characters. Laura shows a mastery of using this to further the story and create a story to evoke emotion and empathy for the issues I mentioned above. I respect an author who can use the icky things of life, recreate them in a scene that may trouble your spirit a bit, but it does so to make you think and confront issues of brokenness and evil in our world to bring awareness, help, and healing.

Fair warning, though, you may never want to hike the woods of the Ozarks again.

Laura’s other novel, Arrowood, is equally as enthralling. It follows the history of an old family house across its generations. The story written here causes the reader to question his or her own family “ghosts” and place in the family tree as well as the community around him or her.

If you liked the books by Kristin Hannah or Mary Kubica, pick up Laura’s novels from the library ASAP!

Here are my book reviews on Goodreads. Check them out and follow me on Goodreads to share more books and reviews.

 

Check out a great Q & A from Shelf Awareness on her first novel, The Weight of Blood. Read with caution if you don’t like spoilers.